John Walker's Electronic House

The Power of Drew

by on Feb.08, 2008, under Television

I’m a little late on this one.

Last year CBS showed a new quiz show called The Power Of 10. This show was unique in one very specific way: It’s really good. But more than that, it’s also not cruel in any way. It picks up on the themes of popular modern quizzes, but strips away the nonsensical meanness, and the agonising pressure, and just lets contestants have fun, with fun questions.

Compare this with Fox’s latest quiz output, The Moment Of Truth, and it’s a fresh breeze in a murky, unpleasant schedule. The Moment of Truth takes a contestant, asks them about 50 questions before taping while they’re wired to a polygraph, and then asks them a selection of these questions on air, in front of their close friends and family. With every question they answer honestly, they win a larger amount of money, but as they progress they risk revealing increasingly awful secrets in front of those they don’t want to know. It’s every bit as vile as it sounds. Attempting to get people to admit to affairs, secret addictions, and other unpleasant facts about themselves, in order to hurt those around them, for cash. Of course, its ratings are very high.

The Power Of 10 is a show where contestants have to guess what percentage of Americans think something based on a survey. And that’s about it. Two contestants begin, competing for getting closest to the correct percentage in a best of five, and then the winner goes on to the main game. Here they are given a 40% range to answer a question for $1000. Then a 30% for $10,000. Next a 20% range for $100,000, and then a 10% range for $1 million. Get a question wrong at any point, and you drop by a factor of 10. Get to $1 million and you are given a chance to guess from within the 11 numbers in the bracket from your answer, for a remarkable $10 million. Lose, and you get $100,000, rather than the million you had before.

But what makes it so much fun are the questions. In the elimination round these can be silly, although often interesting. What percentage of Americans make sure their underwear matches their clothes? What percentage of women have rejected a marriage proposal. But once you’re into the game proper, they become very interesting. What percentage of Americans have a better relationship with their parents as an adult than when a child? What percentage of American women describe themselves as feminists? What percentage of Americans think the police should be able to search your home or car without a warrant, if they suspect you have illegal drugs? There’s room for silly questions here too, my favourite so far being, What percentage of Americans think that they would lose in a duel with Dick Cheny?

So yes, it’s guessing. But it’s informed guessing. Also, the audience takes a vote on every question, and then begins braying like they’re at a dog fight. It’s a sort of mob rule version of Millionaire. And it’s made all the more fun by presentation from Drew Carey. He’s unassuming, generous, and genuinely excited about giving away large amounts of money. In the first episode, the very first contestant wins $1 million, which you could suspect as being a ratings fix. However, it seemed pretty convincingly coincidental. Especially when Carey looks flustered and says, “This is how confident the producers were that we weren’t going to give away a million dollars in the first show. We haven’t even rehearsed how to do this portion of the show.”

It’s a remarkably fun programme, relaxed, and warmly presented by Carey. He seems a lot more comfortable presenting this than he does standing scared in the middle of the insane whirlwind that is The Price Is Right. It’s how I’m sure game shows used to be before The Weakest Link changed everything.

(This show was discovered as part of my current addiction, watching every episode of the really adorable The Drew Carey show, in order).

2 Comments for this entry

  • Iain "DDude" Dawson

    Any news of this conming to the UK? I saw an advert for “The Moment Of Truth” on Sky recently, and it sounds as bad as it looks.

  • Iain "DDude" Dawson

    Been lookin’ around. Found the wikipedia entry, for those who are interested.

    “Rumours claimed that the United Kingdom’s commercial broadcaster ITV would buy the concept with a £5,000,000 top prize (about $10,000,000) to replace Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?; however, the rumour was quashed when it was announced Millionaire would return in 2008 and another new quiz, Duel, was commissioned in late 2007 to air early the following year. Had Power of 10 been commissioned, the prize ladder was anticipated as follows: £500, £5,000, £50,000, £500,000 and £5,000,000.”

    Doesn’t look like us brits are gonna get the imported version….